There was a period of time, especially in conservative circles, when I was afraid to be forthcoming about my mental health. But it seems now that mental health might be a less taboo subject; women are sharing their stories about postpartum depression, the military is actively working to treat PTSD, and even actresses are coming forward about their personal experiences.
Here's some transparency: I experience darkness through anxiety and depression. As far as treatment, I have seen therapists, and I have been medicated. And while I'm often stable, day-to-day, it is when I'm at my lowest, that it's hard to see through the fog of emotions. What's more is that I don’t make life easy on myself, and I don’t always make it easy on the people I share life with, especially the people I love. I am only able to share this now, because today—there is a little less fog, and a little more clarity. But I can tell you that my emotions will change in one simple moment, and I have no idea what tonight or tomorrow may hold.
But I also know that it will be ok, if—or when—I face darkness again. Growing up I had this misunderstanding that healthy people were supposed to live in a constant state of joy and peace. Now I believe that humans have a full range of emotions, because they help us experience life fully. This idea that darkness, or anxiety or depression, or whatever keeps you up at night, is to be embraced, became even more clear to me after reading Barbara Brown Taylor's book, "Learning to Walk in the Dark." Below are a few of my favorite passages:
"I have learned things in the dark that I could have never learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light." (Pg. 5)
"There are no dark emotions, Greenspan says—just unskillful ways of coping with emotions we cannot bear. The emotions themselves are conduits of pure energy that want something from us; to wake up, to tell us something we need to know, to break the ice around our hearts, to move us to act." (Pg. 78)
"Sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that." (Pg. 80)
"At this stage in my life, this sounds like a fifth Gospel, in which the good news is that the dark and light, faith and doubt, divine absence and presence, do not exist at opposite poles. Instead, they exist with and within each other, like distinct waves that roll out of the same ocean and roll back into it again. As different as they are, they come from and return to the same source." (Pg. 148)
I have learned that darkness is not something to be feared or even something to hide from, but rather something feel and live through. I'll leave you with this thought from Barbara, "To be human, is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up." (Pg. 55)